Oklahoma City trailed by as many as 19 in the fourth quarter, and after fighting back to tie up with a little over a second left on the clock, the Thunder lost to the Nuggets 124-127 in Denver on Thursday night.
The Thunder got off to a rough start, and it did not take the Nuggets long to get it going on the offensive end. Oklahoma City made it pretty easy on Denver, as the defense continued to miss Andre Roberson. In the first quarter alone, the Nuggets were able to shoot 17/29 (58.6%) from the floor, including 6/11 (54.5%) from three. Paul George led the way for the Thunder with 11 points, Russell Westbrook handed out eight assists, and Oklahoma City shot 56% from the floor, but after twelve minutes and very little defense, Oklahoma City trailed Denver 33-40.
The second quarter wasn’t much better for Oklahoma City. Patrick Patterson scored five quick points to get things going for the Thunder, but Denver’s offense kept pouring it on Oklahoma City, and with a little under four minutes left in the period, the Nuggets took their largest lead of the half over the Thunder 66-47. Oklahoma City managed to shoot just 12/31 (38.7%) from the floor in the quarter, including 0/6 from three, while Denver finished 11/24 (45.8%) from three for the half, and the Nuggets led 72-57 at halftime.
The third quarter desperately needed to be the start of a turnaround for the Thunder, and that’s exactly what it looked like it was going to be. In just a little over three-and-a-half minutes, Oklahoma City had cut the deficit to single digits, and Denver looked flustered. It didn’t last for long, though, as the Nuggets went right back to knocking down shots, and a little over midway through the period, Denver would go up by 20, their new largest lead of the night. Despite Paul George’s 14 points in the period to give him 29 through three quarters, the Thunder defense could not get stops, and with only twelve minutes left to play, Oklahoma City trailed 89-104.
The fourth quarter started off with the all-bench lineup, and while tonight did not look like the night for that unit, they proved to be just what the doctor ordered. Jerami Grant came into the fourth with 11 points already, but he managed to add in seven more to bring his total to a season-high 18 points in the first two minutes of the period. The bench kept up the intensity, and when the starters began to check back in with seven-and-a-half minutes, the deficit was at 10 points.
It was all Paul George and Russell Westbrook the rest of the way as the duo combined for all 24 of the Thunder’s remaining points. George racked up a season-high 43 points, including a game-tying three which left only 1.4 seconds on the clock.
As Denver inbounded the ball, Westbrook lost his man, and Denver’s Gary Harris was able to get open. Harris put up a three at the buzzer, which was good, and the Thunder lost their second consecutive road game 124-127, dropping to 30-22 on the season.
3 Quick Thoughts
- The Defense Is Broken: Losing Andre Roberson was a devastating blow, but who knew it could be this bad. Oklahoma City gave up 72 points in the first half and 104 through three quarters, and it wasn’t until the final period that the defense actually looked locked in. It’s a fair statement to say that the Thunder could be dealing with some fatigue after playing the fourth game in six days, but there is no excuse for a lack of effort. Denver managed to shoot as much as they wanted from three (15/38, 39.5%), and many of those shots were uncontested. It’s a good thing that there are still 30 games left in the regular season, because the defense needs fixed before the playoffs.
- Bench Provides Spark: While Oklahoma City very well should make a move before the trade deadline next week, Sam Presti needs to be very careful about whoever it is that he decides to move. The Thunder bench may not stuff a stat sheet, but so often lately they have been the reason for Oklahoma City fighting to get back into a game. Tonight, that was definitely the case, as it was Jerami Grant who led the way along with the likes of Alex Abrines, Raymond Felton, and Patrick Patterson to give the Thunder a fighting chance. While the skill level may not be anything that is going ot turn heads, the effort is always there from this group.
- Move On to the Next One: Dramatic win or heartbreaking loss, it can be easy for a team to ride the emotion of a previous game into the next one. The Thunder have to have a short memory as they head home to play another game in less than 24 hours, and they cannot have this game on their mind. The season is a long one, but each game stands on its own, and Oklahoma City needs to focus on picking up a win at home.
After a couple of games on the road, the Thunder heads back to Oklahoma City for a brief homestand, where they will first play the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night. The Thunder lost to the Pelicans in New Orleans earlier this season, and both teams have suffered brutal injuries lately with Andre Roberson having season-ending knee surgery, and DeMarcus Cousins tearing his left achilles tendon. The game will tip at 8 PM and will be televised on FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on WWLS 98.1 FM.
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Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter & Instagram, and like us on Facebook.